Founding (1975) – Early 1980s
Few of the representatives of toy manufacturers from Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States who met in Paris at the end of September 1975 imagined that they were taking part in the creation of a truly global trade association. The meeting, under the chairmanship of Roland Droguet, established ICTI, the International Council of Toy Industries. It is worth recalling the contributions of Henry Coords of Fisher-Price and Walter Armatys in the US, together with Gordon Goude in Britain and Henri Mohy in France, who brought their considerable influence to bear in getting the new industry body off the ground.
The primary motivation for the new association was to respond to the rapid development of toy safety standards in the US and Europe. ICTI was seen as a mechanism for harmonizing existing standards with new products. It established a network of international experts to take charge of future discussions on toy safety standards.
From the outset, it was clear that the delegations were prepared to explore wider fields of common interest so that governments and other organisations could be influenced for the benefit of the toy industry. The second meeting of ICTI, held in Boca Raton in 1976, for example, was given over almost entirely to discussion of a comparative chart of existing requirements. This is when terms such as the truncated cylinder, the sharp point and sharp edge tester and use and abuse tests started to become common currency.
Following meetings in London and New York, ICTI was able to agree on a single world safety standard covering the mechanical and physical properties of toys. This not only offered parents and children throughout the world a wide selection of safe playthings, it vastly facilitated free trade between nations.
This was followed by work on flammability and toxicity of toys, as well as electrical toy safety.
By the early 1980s the scope of ICTI’s activities had widened dramatically. The pooling of information on developments from around the world had added a whole range of subjects that have been on the agenda ever since. These include product recalls, PVC in toys, advertising of toys on television and so-called “war” toys. ICTI had developed a life of its own, and on April 7, 1981, Gordon Goude was appointed permanent secretary.
Ten years after the foundation of ICTI, its membership had been expanded to include Australia, Denmark, Korea, Spain, Sweden and Taiwan; and ICTI had achieved non-voting status at the International Standards Organisation for the work which had now started on an ISO world toy safety standard.
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1980s – 1990s
Although during 1983 the international toy industry had been increasingly worried by developments in the USA in regard to the use of phthalates, such as DEHP, and concern about nitrosamines, ICTI continued also to draw attention to issues such as barriers to trade, counterfeit toys and the threat posed to the toy industry by video games. The regular information exchanges also highlighted the efforts in some countries to encourage the year-round sale of toys. These included opening up a toy fair to the public and promoting the concept of a “Children’s Day”.
ICTI also saw the benefits to the toy industry of promoting much more vigorously the concept of the “value of play”. Experts certainly recognise the physical, therapeutic and educational benefits to children of playing with toys, and emphasising this intrinsic value was seen as a counter to the attacks on toys relating to safety, quality or ethical considerations such as surrounded “war” toys.
The subject of toy industry support for children’s causes came up at every ICTI meeting, and members have developed new ways of benefiting children in need. A good example was the development in Japan of a catalogue of toys suitable for blind and partially-sighted children.
Following the publication of the ICTI toy safety standard in three parts (together with a code of practice for battery operated toys), an ICTI fact book was published that gave basic statistical data on the world toy industry and profiled the aims and work of association.
A major concern of ICTI was the implementation of the European toy safety directive, completed in 1989. The purpose was to harmonize the laws of member states while remaining fully aware that this would lead to some problems for non-EU members. In particular, it was stressed that, although a manufacturer was able to self-certify compliance with the requirements, the directive did contain a requirement to prove conformity of production. There would accordingly be a greater focus on ISO 9000 and similar quality systems that existed throughout the world.
Then, in July 1990, Sweden banned the use of cadmium in toys, and a report appeared that Japan was prohibiting the use of PVC in teethers, a precursor of things to come. Sweden and Quebec Province moved to ban advertising to children, and elsewhere, the toy industry was a frequent target of attacks because of the so-called “war” toys and the issue of sexual stereotyping. It was ICTI’s job to monitor these social issues related to children, toys and play.
At the meeting held in Toronto in May 1991, ICTI took note of the Canadian toy industry’s support for an organisation called “Concerned Children’s Advertisers” which had developed an outstanding programme of public service announcements aimed at drug abuse.
The Toronto meeting also saw the unanimous acceptance by the ICTI members present of ICTI’s first code of conduct. It read as follows:
“The International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) and its member associations are committed to the promotion of a safe play environment for children and to do all things necessary to achieve this in the areas of adherence to all industry toy safety standards, the observation of ethical advertising of toys and the maintenance of free and fair trade in toys throughout the world.
“All member associations of the Council are subscribers to the following ICTI Code of Conduct:
a) We are firmly committed to the promotion of a safe play environment for children.
b) We accept completely the need for toy manufacturers to recognize and adhere strictly to national and international toy safety standards and to take prompt, effective and appropriate action should a toy safety problem arise.
c) We regard as repugnant the practice of counterfeiting of toys not only as an unfair trading practice but one which may also expose children to product which does not comply with toy safety standards.
d) We are committed to the principle that toy manufacturers should observe good standards in regard to the advertising of toys (for example, the U.S. Children’s Advertising Review Unit’s Guidelines or the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce Code).
e) We shall strive to promote free and fair trade in toys throughout the world.
f) We seek to encourage the development of toys for children who have special needs.
g) We shall actively support children’s causes.”
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2000 – 2005
At the 2000 annual general meeting held in Rome, it was abundantly clear that ICTI faced vastly more issues than when it was founded in 1974. The impact of technology on toy design and engineering, the growth in electronic retailing and business to business commerce, increasingly fast communications and the demand for quick response and source tagging had to be dealt with over and above the original concerns about toy safety and harmonised standards.
Moreover, thanks to the efforts of environmental groups, discussions dealing with toy safety now gave equal time to environmental issues. Although the toy industry used only 1 percent of the PVC manufactured, it was being targeted by environmental groups because the safety of children was such an emotional issue. Industry now had to deal with regulations covering packaging and electronic waste, electromagnetic interference and – as an ever-widening problem – the use of chemicals in toys.
The first ICTI Code of Business Practices was adopted in 1995, establishing standards for industry labour practices. A revised version was approved a year later, together with the adoption of a fire safety factory manual.
In order to better defend the industry and communicate toy makers’ views worldwide, in 1997, ICTI successfully applied to the United Nations for Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) status alongside labour unions and human rights groups.
A major step forward was taken at the 28th annual general meeting in Beijing in June 2002. ICTI unanimously agreed to launch a worldwide auditing process to implement the ICTI Code of Business Practices in accordance with the guidance document and audit protocol approved by the 18 member countries.
The aim was to create one efficient and coherent audit system for factories that would have the endorsement of the world’s retailers and ensure uniformity of auditing and total transparency. Since China produced approximately 75 percent of the world’s toys, it was expected that the immediate effect would be an improvement in standards and in conditions in factories there. So far, six independent audit firms have been accredited by ICTI to carry out audits in China, Hong Kong and Macao. A programme has been set up to train auditors in the particular requirements of the ICTI code and audit protocol.
ICTI has set up an office in Hong Kong, ICTI Asia Limited, to see that the code is implemented in the main manufacturing region as rapidly as possible, particularly through the training of factory managers.
ICTI aims to achieve convergence of its code with the many retailer codes that now exist. A major step forward occurred early in 2004 when AVE, the German overseas trade retailers’ group (which includes Karstadt), signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ICTI.
In order to ensure maximum transparency and credibility, ICTI plans to establish an independent oversight board to supervise what is now termed the ICTI CARE process.
The International Council of Toy Industries celebrated its 30th anniversary as the worldwide toy industry association at its annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada by presenting the first annual ICTI award to Concerned Children’s Advertisers based in Toronto. The ICTI award has been created to recognise programmes for outstanding achievement in improving the well-being of children. ICTI members are keen to encourage such media literacy programmes that give children the skills to become well-informed consumers, an issue that has become even more important with the widespread international concern on the subject of child obesity.
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